Thursday, March 12, 2009

Classic Scene #4: "I'm in my prime"

Doc Holliday shows off his shot glass skills in Tombstone.

Appaloosa is out this Friday in Australia and I haven't got to see it – being a huge fan of the Western genre I'm somewhat irked even though I've only heard middling things about this Ed Harris directed film. In meantime I thought I'd just throw out a scene from a film that may not be significant in the Western canon but is certainly a lot of fun and features a remarkable cast that includes Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp, Sam Elliott and Bill Paxton as Earp's brothers, Michael Biehn, Terry O'Quinn, and even Billy Zane is in there.

The scene in Tombstone that always sticks out in my mind is not the gunfight at the O.K Corral, which is great by the way and has some revisionist element to its execution, but the scene in which Biehn as Johnny Ringo and Kilmer as Holliday face off for the first time in the saloon where the Earps are running cards. The setting is about as far from Deadwood as you could expect, plenty of colourful 90s blockbuster glam in there, but what makes the scene is the pure charisma of Kilmer as Holliday.

The Clatons show up to warn the Earps about trying to enforce the law in Tombstone and instead it turns into a pissing contest in Latin between Ringo and Holliday as the two of the most reputed gunslingers in the west, "watch it Johnny, I hear he's real fast," warns Curly Bill (Powers Boothe). Ringo pulls his gun on Holliday, who doesn't react knowing that he's just posturing and showing off how fast he is, then does all manner of twirling and spinning impressing everyone in the crowd. There's great shot of Bill Paxton who's eyes can barely keep up with Ringo's gun.

After his display Holliday dissolves all the tension in the room and shows he has no need to rise to Ringo intimidation by showing his own skills spinning his shot cup on his finger before pretending to holster it. It's a great moment of humour, charisma, machismo and some downright cool gunplay. Val Kilmer completely steals this whole movie and really lays down one of my favourite portrayals of a Western icon. Check out the scene after the bump with a little translation from Google of their chat in Latin.

Doc Holliday: In vino veritas.
"In wine is truth"
Johnny Ringo: Age quod agis.
"Do what you do"
Doc Holliday: Credat Judaeus apella, non ego.
"The Jew Apella may believe it, not I"
Johnny Ringo: Eventus stultorum magister.
"Events are the teachers of fools"
Doc Holliday: In pace requiescat.
"Rest in peace"


Daniel Crichton-Rouse said...

It's funny you chose Tombstone. I've been thinking about this film for a few weeks now. I loved it as a kid, and probably haven't seen it since I was about 12 or 13. I always thought Val Kilmer was brilliant - particularly his accent.

Have you seen the French spoof, OSS 117? It parodies James Bond films, but there's a scene where four men, including 117 quote proverbs to out-do each other. It hadn't dawned on me until now that it may be inspired by this scene.

But then again, it's probably just coincidence.